Paleo vs. Whole30®

Last Update: July 9, 2024

Wellness trends come and go, but the paleo diet and Whole30® program have real staying power. But what’s the difference between paleo and Whole30®? Both eating plans share a few overlapping food rules, or “do’s and don’ts”, like choosing unprocessed ingredients and nixing dairy and sugar, but there are some key differences, too. Whole30® is a short-term program that lasts approximately 30 days, while going paleo is a long-term lifestyle choice. Keep reading to learn the nuances of the paleo vs. Whole30® program, prep your Whole30® shopping list, and brush up on paleo diet rules.

What Is the Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet is occasionally referred to as the caveman diet, hunter-gatherer diet, or Stone Age diet. Regardless of how you talk about it, the paleo plan focuses on ingredients that were available and consumed by our Neolithic ancestors, like meat, fish, veggies, and fruit [1]. When it comes to paleo vs Whole30®, paleo is a long-term change whereas Whole30® is a shorter-term change. Loren Cordain, Ph.D. is the self-proclaimed founder of paleo’s modern movement, and says “the paleo diet is based upon everyday, modern foods that mimic the food groups of our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors.”

Paleo Diet Benefits

The paleo diet is known for being high in protein and fiber and low in sodium and refined sugars [2]. It also restricts carbohydrates that are high on the glycemic index, like potatoes. According to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), grass-fed beef is often recommended on the paleo diet, which contains more omega-3 fats than conventional beef [3]. Although some paleo advocates have reported losing weight (thanks to eating a nutrient-dense, whole food diet), HSPH believes more research needs to be done before recommending the paleo diet as a reliable approach for long-term weight loss.

Paleo Diet Foods

Here’s a basic paleo do’s and don’ts list for your paleo meal plan. In general, you’re looking to rely on unprocessed foods that are similar to what was available to our ancestors.

Paleo food list

  • Meat: Beef, pork, lamb, poultry, jerky, bacon, and eggs
  • Fish & Shellfish: Salmon, halibut, bass, red snapper, swordfish, crab, lobster, shrimp, clams, and scallops
  • Oils: The best oils for paleo cooking are unrefined like coconut, olive, macadamia, avocado, and ghee
  • Veggies: Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, peppers, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes
  • Fruit: Avocados, apples, peaches, plums, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, lemons, grapes, and, figs

Paleo foods to avoid

While wholesome, unprocessed foods are paleo approved, the same can’t be said for processed foods or foods that were not present during caveman days. These include:

  • Corn and corn syrup
  • Soy
  • Gluten
  • Legumes (including peanuts)
  • Rice
  • Dairy
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol

10 Healthy Paleo Diet Foods

Our shelves are filled with hundreds of paleo-friendly ingredients, but these are the food staples Thrive Market members love the most.

Thrive Market Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This bottle of extra virgin olive oil is made from 100% Certified Organic Koroneiki olives from an estate in western Crete. The bright and peppery flavor is ideal for drizzling on roasted fish or making homemade salad dressing.

Thrive Market Organic Coconut Milk

For curries, drinks, and baked goods, a paleo pantry isn’t complete without a stash of creamy coconut milk.

Wild Planet Non-GMO Wild Skipjack Tuna

With 14 grams of protein per serving, skipjack tuna makes a quick and filling lunch. Each filet is sustainably caught and cooked once to help retain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids.

Kettle & Fire Chicken Bone Broth

With a carton of chicken bone broth at the ready, you can easily enrich soups, stews, and gravies (or just it sip solo). Kettle & Fire’s version is slow-simmered and offers 10 grams of protein per serving.

Primal Kitchen Garlic Aioli Mayo

Primal Kitchen’s mayo is beloved in the paleo community, and it’s easy to see why. This garlic-infused spread lends extra flavor to your dishes and is made with cage-free eggs and avocado oil.

Nutpods Hazelnut Dairy-Free Creamer

Here’s a paleo-friendly creamer for your coffee or tea—hazelnut will make your beverage extra comforting.

Bob’s Red Mill Organic Coconut Flour

Swap out your traditional flours and add paleo-friendly coconut flour to your pantry. Every serving offers dietary fiber, iron, and protein.

Artisana Organics Raw Almond Butter

This jar has only one ingredient: organic almonds. Artisana crafts its nut butters in small batches, and while we always enjoy eating it straight off a spoon, almond butter also adds heft to smoothies, creaminess to dipping sauces, and more.

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Nutiva’s coconut oil is sourced in Southeast Asia where fresh coconuts are immediately cold-pressed after harvesting. Use this staple for grilling, sautéing, and even DIY beauty treatments.

Thrive Market Organic Raw Cashews

Not only does a ¼-cup serving deliver 5 grams of protein, but cashews can transform your meals for the better. Use them to thicken soups, make sauces and dips, or create a crust on fish or chicken.

Easy Paleo Recipes

For paleo meal prep, give one of these trusty paleo diet recipes a whirl and you’re sure to find some new family favorites. For even more recipes, check out blogger Nom Nom Paleo.

Sweet Potato Hash With Chicken Sausage

Need paleo breakfast ideas? We’ve got you covered. There’s nothing like a piping hot sweet potato hash to warm up your morning. This dish works with a range of diets and the chicken sausage will help keep you fueled.

Homemade Turkey Bone Broth

Unless you’re vegan or vegetarian, having a freezer lined with containers of homemade bone broth is a must for adding instant depth of flavor to paleo meals like soups and stews.

Seafood Scallop Chowder

Paleo dinner recipes can easily mimic your favorite recipes with a few key ingredient swaps. For example, this chowder might look thick and creamy, but there’s no dairy in sight! Learn our secret weapons for cooking up a paleo-friendly soup that’s just as satisfying as the original.

Paleo Shakshuka

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner in 15 minutes? Bookmark this recipe! Shakshuka is a fast, egg-based dish that’s ready in minutes.

Paleo Lamb Burgers With Pistachio Pesto

Upgrade burger night with ground lamb, spices, and a minty pistachio pesto. Wrap a patty in lettuce and dinner’s paleo-ready.

Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Let the Instant Pot help with your next paleo dinner. This chicken is super simple to prepare and extra flavorful thanks to coconut amino sauce, apple cider vinegar, and an entire head of garlic (trust us!).

What Is the Whole30® Diet?

The Whole30® program is a chance to reset your body for 30 days by eliminating foods that may be problematic (like dairy and beans) before reintroducing them and seeing how your body responds. While watching what you eat is an essential aspect of the program, Whole30® is also about the journey, and you’re encouraged to enjoy the process, join the community for support, and listen to your body’s cues for what it needs, and what makes it feel the best. Regardless of the differences between paleo vs Whole30®, the sense of community is something that both meal plans have in common.

How is Whole30® different from paleo?

In terms of paleo vs Whole30®, technically, you only have to stick with the Whole30® guidelines for 30 days, and how you move forward again is completely up to you. Some people enjoy using Whole30® as a reset once or twice during the year, while others enjoy the benefits so much that they stick with the food guidelines more long-term.

Paleo is a more long-term lifestyle change that aims to mimic the food groups of our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Whole30® Food List

Getting to know the Whole30® do’s and don’ts is one of the first steps in successfully launching your program. Guidelines include eliminating ingredients like sugars, grains, and legumes (get our full list below) and increasing healthy fats, vegetables, and high-quality proteins [4].

Foods to enjoy

During the program, put these foods on your Whole30® grocery list:

Foods to avoid

  • Alcohol
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Added sugar or artificial sweeteners

Benefits of a Whole30® Diet

While following the Whole30® program, you’ll be eating foods that offer vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. Although few studies have been conducted, it’s believed Whole30® may help stabilize blood sugar levels (thanks to all the whole foods) [5]. Getting better sleep is another positive side effect many people report—studies suggest that limiting processed foods and sugars may improve sleep quality. Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to experiment with Whole30® is creating a better relationship with food. While some people experience weight loss, it’s not the goal. Whole30® is more interested in learning what ingredients make you feel your best and give you more energy—not focusing on what the scale says.

Which is better- Whole30® or paleo?

When deciding which lifestyle change may be best for you, you can consider these pros and cons of paleo vs. Whole30®

Paleo pros and cons

  • Pros: A paleo diet is not quite as restrictive as the Whole30® plan. Studies show the paleo diet may have many health benefits such as reducing blood sugar and bad cholesterol [6].
  • Cons: Cutting out grains could lead to decreased intake of fiber and calcium [7]. Increasing your red meat intake on a paleo diet could also lead to an increased risk of heart disease [8].

Whole30® pros and cons

  • Pros: Whole30® is a short-term commitment compared to a paleo lifestyle. A Whole30® program can also help you find any food sensitivity culprits you should avoid in the future.
  • Cons: While shorter-term, Whole30® is a stricter regimen than paleo. Restricting grains could also lead to decreased levels of fiber and calcium.

10 Must-Have Whole30® Products

Before you jump in, take some time to meal plan and get your pantry Whole30® ready.

Good Food for Good Organic Spicy Ketchup

This organic ketchup adds a kick to anything you make, and only has 1g of sugar per serving.

The New Primal Classic Marinade & Cooking Sauce

Dinner will taste even better when you marinate fish, veggies, or chicken with a cooking sauce from The New Primal. It’s okay for Whole30® because it’s free of soy, dairy, oil, or added sugar.

Primal Kitchen Balsamic Vinaigrette & Marinade

This dressing is made with avocado oil (a favorite Whole30® ingredient) plus onion powder, balsamic vinegar, and oregano.

Yai’s Thai Almond Sauce

Dinner will be ready in minutes when this Thai sauce is on hand. It’s made with almonds, red curry paste, tamarind juice, and coconut milk—perfect for a quick and easy stir-fry.

Thrive Market Avocado Oil

Ethically sourced from Mexico, our avocado oil has a high smoke point and works for roasting, sautéing, and baking. Also, you can whip up a tasty Whole30® salad dressing in minutes.

Safe Catch Wild Albacore Tuna

Take tuna salad to new heights with a can of fish that offers 14g of protein. Safe Catch is known for having some of the most rigorous testing programs in the industry (and the lowest mercury levels to boot).

CHOMPS Original Grass-Fed Beef Snack Stick

Need a snack? Chomp on a grass-fed beef stick that’ll help keep you full with 9g of protein, plus each bite is the perfect combo of smoky and sweet.

Whole30® Ranch Dressing

If you don’t want to miss out on ranch dressing, switch to Primal Kitchen’s version made with avocado oil, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder, and herbs.

Whole30® Taco Seasoning

Make it a taco night to remember with Primal Palate’s bold seasoning. This blend combines paprika, black pepper, cumin, and chipotle for kick.

Tessamae’s Matty’s Organic BBQ Sauce

A jar of Tessamae’s BBQ sauce makes everything better—think shredded chicken, pork taco filling, or braised short ribs.

Best Whole30® Recipes

Whole30® meal prep inspiration is here! Our blog has plenty of easy Whole30® recipes, but these are some of our favorite dishes to get you started.

Sheet Pan Shrimp With Spicy Broccoli

This simple sheet pan dinner comes straight from the Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook Just toss shrimp and broccoli with sesame oil and red pepper flakes before roasting everything in the oven.

Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs

Here’s a double recipe featuring baby back ribs with either a dry rub or a wet sauce. We’ll leave it to you to decide which one to try first, but they’re both Whole30®-compliant so you can’t go wrong.

Easy Loco Moco

Hawaiian comfort food gets a Whole30®-spin thanks to cauliflower rice, coconut oil, bone broth, and grass-fed beef.

Whole30® and Paleo Meatloaf

If you’ve never met a meatloaf recipe that’s Whole30®-compliant, allow us to introduce you to a tender, ketchup-covered dish the whole family will love. Serve it with mashed cauliflower to really drive home the comfort food factor.

Slow Cooker Whole30® Chili

Get your slow cooker ready to go, because we’re betting this pot of chicken chili will be a repeat on your weekly Whole30® menu. Coconut cream makes every bite extra silky, and leftovers freeze well for later.

Tuna Salad 3 Ways

Tuna’s a reliable ingredient when you’re following a Whole30® program, so why not play around with global flavors? This video has three ways to enjoy tuna salad—and none of them are boring.

Paleo vs. Whole30® Comparison 

Understanding the nuances and differences between the Paleo and Whole30® diets can help you make a decision about which eating style is right for you. To help you get a clearer picture, we’ve put together a detailed table below. This table breaks down the core principles, dietary restrictions, and fundamental beliefs of each diet, providing a side-by-side comparison. 

Whether you’re leaning towards the ancestral approach of the Paleo diet or considering the structured reset of the Whole30® program, this comparison will give you the insights you need to choose the path that best suits your nutritional needs and lifestyle goals. 

Comparison Criteria Paleo Diet Whole30 Diet
Basic Premise Mimics the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers 30-day program to reset eating habits and eliminate certain foods
Core Philosophy Focuses on whole, unprocessed foods from the Paleolithic era Eliminates potentially inflammatory or problematic foods for 30 days
Duration Long-term lifestyle choice 30 days, strict adherence required
Primary Foods Meats, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables Meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables, natural fats, fruits, herbs, spices
Restricted Foods Grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, sugars, artificial additives Grains, legumes, dairy, added sugars, alcohol, artificial additives, and certain food additives
Dairy Generally excluded, but some versions allow for grass-fed or fermented dairy Strictly excluded
Legumes Excluded Excluded
Grains Excluded Excluded
Alcohol Generally avoided, but some versions may allow moderate consumption Strictly prohibited
Added Sugars Avoided, natural sweeteners like honey may be used sparingly Strictly prohibited
Soy Excluded Excluded
Reintroduction Phase Not typically emphasized Systematic reintroduction phase after 30 days
Focus on Food Quality Encourages organic, grass-fed, and sustainably sourced foods Similar emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods
Lifestyle Components Includes aspects of physical activity and lifestyle Primarily focused on diet
Approach to Cheat Days Some flexibility depending on the individual’s version of paleo No cheat days; strict adherence required for 30 days


Duration and Flexibility: The Paleo diet is more of a long-term lifestyle choice with some flexibility in food choices, whereas the Whole30 is a strict, short-term reset program.

Purpose: Whole30 is often used to identify food sensitivities and develop a healthier relationship with food, while Paleo is a broader approach to eating like our Paleolithic ancestors. [9] [10]

Reintroduction Phase: The systematic reintroduction phase in Whole30 helps individuals understand how certain foods impact their bodies, which is not a typical component of the Paleo diet.

Both diets share similarities in emphasizing whole foods and excluding grains, legumes, and processed foods, but they differ in their overall approach, duration, and strictness.

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